Well, I went back for another round of phone banking last night, and I was kind of crabby about it. "How do I always end up in this situation?" I asked myself.
The situation: I had decided in May that leading trainings on talking to people you know was my way to best offer myself to the campaign against a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage in Minnesota. Because I'm on the computer and phone all day, I wanted face-to-face interactions at night. I never intended to do phone banking. I only agreed to do it because two friends I tried to recruit to volunteer said it would be fun if we all went together, and I wanted to support their involvement.
Last night both friends bailed on going, so there I was, going alone, holding the bag as if it were mine to hold, because I said I would. Bleh. This is a piece of karma I'm working to transform in all aspects of life. And surprise! Here it was again! I tried to call a few other folks to join me at the last minute but didn't reach anyone.
It's not that it's scary to go alone. It's just a lot more fun with friends. I went to the St. Paul office this time; parking is easier, and I can give The Teen Intern a ride home. And this time I was calling known supporters to get them to volunteer rather than calling people to talk about the amendment and persuade them to vote "no."
Here's what I learned, talking to people about volunteering: People are really stressed and really busy, just like the friends who didn't come with me. Genuinely, legitimately overwhelmed and stressed out. Stressed out from parenting, and caring for parents with Alzheimer's, and working three jobs. Stressed from working on other campaigns or issues they care about. Honestly, I felt as much like a pastoral counselor as I felt like a volunteer recruiter. At the end of the night, having made about 35 phone calls to known supporters, I had rounded up just two volunteers. (Lots of people weren't home or weren't answering the phone, just like me!)
There were 22 of us calling, so between us, we got commitments from something like 45 new volunteers to come in and do phone banking or canvassing. We all cheered for this success. Still, I felt humbled by the experience. Given the level of stress everyone is walking around with, how do we crank up the urgency for civic involvement on this or any other of the urgent issues facing us?
There's a training this weekend on how to get better results doing volunteer recruitment. I'll go if I can. I'd love to hear from some people who get better results than I do. I'm great at cranking up urgency but not as good at closing the deal. That skill can only help in all kinds of situations!
My favorite conversation last night was with a woman on a roller-derby team who said that in roller-derby season, it's hard to make time for volunteering because it's typical to skate four nights a week. I suggested that she get the whole team to do something together. Wouldn't that be cool? Canvassers on skates? I didn't close the deal, but she was thinking about it!
Follow Rev. Meg Riley on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MegARiley